I’m going to try something a little different this month on the blog. While there will be the usual miscellany of new releases – current plans are for the latest from Mark Billingham, Deryn Lake, Sharon Bolton and Paul Cornell, and my contribution to Past Offences’ Crimes Of The Century’s #1957book, probably Gladys Mitchell this time – other than that, I’m going to focus primarily on one author – namely Cecil Street aka John Rhode aka Miles Burton aka Cecil Waye aka F O O aka I O aka C J C Street.
One thing about John Rhode – probably the better known pseudonym – is that I was aware of him due to his collaboration with John Dickson Carr on Fatal Descent aka Drop To His Death, but once I’d read that – over ten years ago – I had trouble finding anything by the author. For whatever reason, this author of more than 140 novels mostly seem to have never been reprinted. It seems such an odd thing that an author was still being published – he released five books in 1960, four years before his death – while his back catalogue was presumably unavailable to the reading populace.
The other thing that fascinates me is that he is generally referred to as John Rhode when the Burton pseudonym was equally prolific and neither is his real name. Is it perchance that his best known work is the aforementioned collaboration? Is it that the Rhode novels tend to have (I think) impossible crimes in them? No idea, really.
There are a number of resources on Rhode out there, the principle one being one third of Curtis Evans’ Masters Of The Humdrum Mystery – there’s plenty on Curtis’s website as well. On top of that, there’s the gadetection page, which contains a review for the majority of the books (although some of the links have expired), as does Mike Grost’s page and The Locked Room Mystery’s page. There are also reviews at Beneath The Stains Of Time, At The Scene Of The Crime and Pretty Sinister Books. Obviously I can’t guarantee that those reviews are spoiler-free.
But I’ve only skimmed that content as I want to form my own opinions of the author, prompted by two things. First of all, the British Library are about to re-issue two Miles Burton novels, Death In The Tunnel and The Secret Of High Eldersham (in that order, despite the second introducing series sleuth Desmond Merrion) and secondly, I’ve managed to procure a few affordable copies of some other books from the author. The estate seem reluctant to release the rights for reprints for some reason – there are some US ebooks from St Swithins Press but they’re not obtainable over here. Those readers out there who are less concerned with copyright can find some titles on the Internet Archive. Still not sure how that works, legal-wise…
So, coming soon on the blog (this might take more than a month) – Death In The Tunnel, The Secret Of High Eldersham and Situation Vacant from Miles Burton, and Death In Harley Street, The Venner Crime, Nothing But The Truth, Death In Wellington Road from John Rhode – and possibly another one or two. I might even chuck in Fatal Descent as well.
But, dear reader, what’s your opinion on Rhode? If you’re a fellow blogger, can you squeeze in a Rhode review this month or next? If so, do leave a link to said review here or use the hashtag #IReadRhode. Thanks to Kate who suggested “Going For A Burton” as the title for this, but as the Burton books are generally harder to find that the Rhode ones, I thought I’d plump for the best thing that I can think of.
Oh, and there are two reviews on my blog as well.
So, stick around as I discover a new old author…